Want to know if you’re from Mars or Snickers? Check out today’s guest Ron Berk, Ph.D., and all his humor resources. Add humor, laughter, and fun to break down the fear barriers in education, testing, and even learning statistics! To listen to today’s interview, go here: http://www.talkshoe.com/tc/73081
Ronald A Berk, PhD
Professor Emeritus, Biostatistics & Measurement,
Former Assistant Dean for Teaching,
The Johns Hopkins University
Email: NEW email@example.com<mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org> Phone: 410-940-7118
Websites: www.ronberk.com<http://www.ronberk.com/> www.pptdoctor.net<http://www.pptdoctor.net/>
Today is Mardi Gras. And so, today’s Comedy Around the World goes–where else–to New Orleans.
Someone asked me what my favorite Mardi Gras memory was. Who remembers those things, right? Well I do remember my worst Mardi Gras.
It was during the running of the “Mardi Gras” Marathon. I put that in quotation marks more out of sarcasm than proper grammar. You see, the race was not during Mardi Gras—it wasn’t even in the same week. Mardi Gras seemed merely to indicate we would be running in New Orleans.
My vision was a big celebration, lots of noise, lights, beads, singing, dancing, and of course, unfortunately, running.
What happened was silence. Asphalt. Distance. And pain.
The race happened on a Sunday morning. Yes, in New Orleans. I’m not familiar with the town, but apparently there are no people out on Sunday mornings in New Orleans. Not only were there no people, there was no quaint running course that would traverse the historic town and its French roots, fine food and world-famous music.
There was none of that.
But there were transvestites! At each water station, groups of people—mostly men—competed to see who could win the prize for most outrageous costume.
Amidst all my pain, disappointment and more pain, there was a spark of hope in a red dress and heels, handing me a cup of water. (At least I am hoping it was water). I almost felt less pain as I took the cup and laughed as I drank. Then I looked forward to the next water station, and the next. Not just for the water, but for the distraction. For the joy and for the hope.
I could almost picture the finish line, and even my finishing the race. But that wasn’t at the forefront anymore. Now there was something else, another reason to keep running. A motivation beyond a personal-best time or a medal.
There was the hope, connection, and camaraderie with the people who know how important it is to LAUGH. Especially through the difficult changes of mile after mile on asphalt in a quiet, sleeping city.
Who is handing YOU water today? How funny is THAT?
The labyrinth stood by itself on the other side of the road. To get to it, I had to cross the soft mushy ground and mounds of mud. Once there, I started into the maze. It looked like a condensed running track from high school. But the more I walked, the more I started to panic.
My eyes raced to trace the path direction further ahead of where I was: WAS there an end to this? Or was it a trick? Were people looking from the windows, was there a hidden camera?
I thought about cheating—maybe I should step over the brick lining that traced the shape of the maze. But: maybe that was bad luck? I was even thinking about going back to the beginning to check the map on the plaque there. But that would also mean stepping over the brick lining.
As I kept walking the path, my mind went back to grade school. Those maze puzzles—I used to cheat and start at the END of the puzzle. That way I KNEW I would find the solution! Then I could start form the beginning and just re-trace my steps.
I had also cheated on the vocabulary games. I would go to that letter in the dictionary to get ready for the word we had to speed-find. I would go there while the other kids were just taking out their dictionaries. “Trina wait for everyone before we start,” the teacher would always catch me. But I would still always keep doing it, keep working ahead.
Maybe the circular nature of the maze made me circle back in time. And maybe it unraveled past guilts, brought out to be unraveled by the maze? But my pattern of crimes isn’t too unlike what we all do when confronted with a dilemma. Work ahead, make sure we’re out in front of the other people, make ourselves look good.
This maze, that game, all of life is no different. We have a labyrinth and we have panic.
I laughed at myself as I rounded the next turn in the path. I saw that I only ever had to be concerned about the next turn. Not the next 22 turns up ahead. Once I realized that there was a legitimate end to the labyrinth, I relaxed.
All we have to do is keep moving, and watch where we are going. Putting one foot after the other, right in front of you. As long as we don’t stop walking, we will get out of the maze.
But unfortunately, change stops us in our tracks. The rug has been pulled, the jig is up. Moving is exactly what we can’t do because sometimes we forget how.
There IS a solution out there. You can say it’s God or a higher source, or simply the end of the ego. Got has his pencil at the end of the maze. And God is allowed to “cheat” like this because, after all, he created the game.
The only time we need to panic, rush, and come up with a quick answer that’s correct is when we’re doing our taxes. Otherwise, we can afford to rest in the comfort of the chaos, trusting that there IS a way out. If we only relax.
How will YOU get out of your labyrinth? How funny is THAT?
I spent Valentine’s Day this year ice skating and then going to a funeral home. Big fun, right? Normally Valentine’s Day is riddled with anxiety: Will I get good gifts? Will I get any gifts? What should I get people? Will I be able to get my grandma’s gift to her in time?
But this year was different. No romance, no saccharine, no consumerism. Just pure love.
One of my fellow ice skating students is experiencing the end of her seventeen-year marriage. It’s her first Valentine’s Day alone–ever. Another friend just lost her sister and today was the viewing. My friend Mrs. B spent her second Valentine’s Day as a widow. In the midst of a cold, rehearsals, and deadlines, I didn’t even get my grandma anything—not even a card. How can any of that be called love?
It was LOVE that happened around all those events.
I called my Grandma to wish her a Happy Valentine’s Day. She didn’t say, “Hey, where is my card, the flowers, what’s going on?” That was love.
Today my ice skating instructor passed me on the adult basic skills class. Even though I still can’t do the snowplow stop. “You don’t know when to stop.” “Yes I do; I just don’t know HOW.” That was love.
At the end of class, my ice skating friend called happily after the instructor, “Happy Valentine’s Day!” She even cheered me up about the ending of my own two-year relationship. Her attitude made me think she was part of a happy couple, and getting lots and lots of gifts this Valentine’s Day! No. It was just love.
When I showed up at the viewing, the family was ready to leave. That I was dressed like a bag lady after hurriedly dressing after ice skating class—didn’t matter. I was there. That was love.
I remembered how we all spent a Sunday afternoon together last Fall, taking pictures of the leaves. I hugged my friend’s nephew, whose mom had just died. I hugged my friend and her sister. I didn’t know what to say. It was just love.
Then my friend told her family, “I’m going back in with Trina.” That was love. When I asked her if she wanted me to come to the funeral tomorrow before my appointments with both the periodontist and the orthodontist, she said, “Don’t push yourself.” That was love. That I just may make it a triumvirate and do those two plus a funeral–that isn’t love. But if you’re going to have a bad day, you may as well go full throttle. (“Do it wrong, do it strong,” as they told us in Second City…).
When I got home, I called Mrs. B to wish her Happy Valentine’s Day. “We made it through didn’t we?” she said. She’d seen “eight men in the store buying Valentine’s Day gifts for their sweetheart, and I got a pang in my Heart, ‘he’s not with me’…” and her voice trailed off.
She told me she’d spent the day with her family and her new puppy. We talked about the new kitten that wandered into my yard and my life. (And how I hope it isn’t the neighbor’s because I’m keeping it.) That was love. (And possession, but mostly love.)
We talked about the peeing on the floor, the destruction of newspapers. That the hyperactivity of the new puppy made her, “so busy I didn’t have time to dwell on it. He’s up in Heaven with Jesus this year.” That was love.
She said last year she was in such shock that nothing registered for her. This year nothing registered for me. And—I wasn’t worried about it. I can get gifts tomorrow. Cheaper. In fact, I can give gifts any time of the year.
Why does this day have to have a certain “look?” We don’t have any expectations about how people “should” act or be, or what to buy on Halloween, Groundhog Day, or April Fool’s Day. And so, those are the most enjoyable holidays (for me, anyway. Even though there are no iced sugar cookies at those times…).
I’ve decided that Valentine’s Day (or any holiday) doesn’t need to look like anything.
As long as there is love.
Love within pain is sometimes the most meaningful. The most profound. And the most true.
When we’re not focusing on our own pain, we are love.
And that was a Happy Valentine’s Day for me. How funny is THAT?
Always swim with a buddy. That’s the advice we get so we don’t drown. But when we are going through change, sometimes we feel like shark bait. Like the flotsam and jetsam of life, strewn across the waves.
Maybe you feel like my research participants did. Alone in a sea of change. Alone, even within your own circle of friends and family.
When I realized I had too many participants waiting in line to be in my research study I was thrilled! Not just because I had obviously hit a nerve. But I was euphoric to point out to potential participants that they are NOT alone.
The reality is that people in transition are legion. Because we encounter change constantly, being a change-ling and outcast may just be the new “normal!” There is power in knowing this, and power in numbers. Eventually you’ll feel more capable, and—ultimately–hopeful.
Before they took part in my study, my research participants didn’t feel like they were “normal”–that is, healthy adults. They were at mid-life and not only were they not married and had no children, they were also in the midst of career change.
Their prongs included not only, “Where will I work?” and “Where can I find work that is meaningful to me?” They also fielded intrusive questions from the outside, wondering, “Why aren’t you married yet? You’re so pretty…”
Here’s how my study participants completed the change process:
1. Interview questions led the women to enlightenment. They could see that many factors had contributed to the confusion. The un-groundedness the women were feeling had its roots in places other than personal incompetence.
2. Previously unexamined–and therefore unchallenged–messages from childhood, family, school, religion, and media were exposed.
3. Within the examining process was a sense of humor. One woman suddenly realized how much emphasis she had placed on not getting married (so she could finish her education and career choices). “I put so much energy in not getting married, and now—I’m not!” She laughed at her pain and confusion, and created a peg of power.
4. “What do others say about this?” the women asked me. They were curious about my research findings, and whether their answers to my interview questions were typical. One e-mail contained the plea, “Help us.” Maybe their transition situation was painful, but it didn’t have to be encountered alone.
5. Once the other voices were removed, the women could see more clearly what interests they had, and those they had let slide away in the chaos. One woman knew for sure that her next career and her next relationship would reflect her new values. Another realized her own courage at confronting sexual abuse and creating a more healthy emotional life.
Each time we encounter change, we go through this whole process again. At the end of the process:
We find out what messages we want to accept.
We embrace a comforting sense of belonging. …. And best of all….
We locate those places where we can feel in control.
What will YOU find out during the change process?
How funny is THAT?
Change causes us to feel out of control.
The rug has been pulled, the jig is up.
We’re exposed, we’re unsettled, we’re restless.
And—we’re not quite sure who we are anymore.
Sound familiar? Great! Here’s your chance to DO something constructive during this typically turbulent time we call CHANGE.
Change requires you to form a new “you”. To make sense of the chaos that’s splattering all around you. There is a process we go through, whether consciously or not. It’s a process that makes us feel more IN CONTROL. Instead of suffering in victim-hood, we are now exposing, examining, and then picking-and-choosing what definitions of ourselves we will and won’t tolerate.
Doesn’t matter if you didn’t have, or didn’t feel you had a choice initially. THIS time you DO have a choice. You gain strength every time you choose what to include or exclude from your personal identity line-up.
1. Look at all the prongs—those outside influencers of who we define ourselves to be. At this level, we are just becoming aware of the big picture, the overall scene and our place within that. Don’t get too attached or emotional, just observe.
2. Ask yourself about each prong. What messages made you feel less, stupid, incompetent or hopeless? Maybe you got the message, “You’re not very smart,” and that led you to believe you’d never make it in college. And so…you never tried. Ask yourself: “Am I going to accept this, or reject it?”
3. Discard those messages that are no longer relevant. Maybe in the interim of your last turbulence and the current one, you’ve gained a foothold on your self-doubts.
4. Find others who are in the same boat. Search everywhere, not just face-to-face. Find hashtags on Twitter, groups on Facebook or LinkedIn. And then rest in the knowing that there ARE people who are also tossed about by the waves of change. Simply knowing this is an empowering tool.
5. Return to the activities you love, the interests that bring you joy. This “inner-laughter” will not only promote a hopeful feeling. It will help your creativity, problem-solving, and focus.
Stay tuned to see how the women in my research study used this process to make a career change!
How funny is THAT?
In my humor programs, people have asked me, “What if I work with a boss who has no sense of humor, who
expect me to understand technology, and to do things perfectly?”
I’ve come to the conclusion that when we’re not living our purpose, we’re going to feel out of
Only you know how badly you need that job.
Only you know whether or not it’s your true calling.
Only you know how much you can take, and/or how far you can take any of my humor strategies there in your workplace.
Your boss isn’t here at my programs, but you are. And the strategies I’m giving you are so that you can protect yourself. But if your situation is so far gone that even humor won’t work—even you lightening
up and getting rid of your own stress–that’s the turning point.
That is when you have to realize, “Hey maybe this isn’t ‘living my purpose.’” That’s where humor and laughter enter the picture. They are the keys to getting ‘on purpose’ and living within and maybe even surpassing your potential. The keys to finding out and doing what it is that you are meant to do in this lifetime. Because if you’re that stifled by a boss, if you’re that unfulfilled by a job task, if you’re that unfulfilled in your work, you are not giving the world your best.
The remedy starts with telling yourself the TRUTH.
And that truth is the hallmark of humor & laughter.
What are YOU working toward? How funny is THAT?